New Delhi: “We have been protesting for the last 60 days now, because we are paid only Rs 4,000 every month,” said Anita, an ASHA worker from Haryana’s Jhajjar, at a protest in the national capital, on October 5.
Anita’s voice was among the chorus of over 7,000 women from 26 states who had gathered at Jantar Mantar to protest against the Narendra Modi government and its policies.
“We should be given at least Rs 27,000 every month, as that is the amount our prime minister and chief minister claim is necessary to support a family of four or five people,” said Anita.
“Our MPs and MLAs have no qualms about increasing their salaries while they serve in parliament. So, why aren’t the wages of ordinary people raised as well? If an ASHA worker can manage with Rs 4,000, then so can our prime minister. If the prime minister, chief minister, MPs, and MLAs pledge to limit their salaries to Rs 4,000 per month, we will conclude our protest and ask for no more,” she added.
The protest – which was organised by the All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA) – didn’t seem to have received much attention from the mainstream media.
Falma Chauhan from Himachal Pradesh said, “Ever since 2014, we have seen a sharp rise in violence against women in this ‘naya Bharat’. Prices are sky high, food items have become so expensive. We also want the prime minister to declare Himachal Pradesh a disaster zone!”
“The horrifying rape of women in Manipur and the murder of their family members afterwards shows us the hollowness of his Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao slogan. Our women wrestlers sat right here in protest at Jantar Mantar and they still haven’t received justice. Every day women are being assaulted, young girls are getting raped. Kindly spare us your hollow slogans and don’t try to fool us” she said.
Koyal Vishvas from West Bengal said, “Our demands aren’t just limited to the demands of women, they are the demands of the entire nation. This government is selling off the country’s institutions to private players. The rich are getting richer and the poor poorer. Even as oil prices dip internationally, our petrol and diesel prices continue to rise. What is this government up to? Please also understand that in asking for women’s safety, we are, in fact, asking for the safety of the entire nation.”
As part of the protest, many women sang and performed local dances from their home states in small groups. Some of them were carrying their children in their laps as they danced.
When asked about the significance of the women dancing at the protest, Mariam Dhawale, AIDWA general secretary, said: “Our women are fighters,” she explained. “The songs they are singing and dancing to are the songs of liberation, justice, and of building a new world. Dancing is an expression of the joy of belonging to the world and winning the world.”
She also explained how AIDWA prepared for months for this event.
“We have a presence in 26 states. For the last many months we have conducted thousands of meetings, scooter rallies, and padyatras to speak to women in all those states, to understand their problems. The issues we are raising here today are the issues that women all over India have brought up. Violence, inflation, unemployment, and privatisation to name a few. The women you see here today come from various backgrounds,” she said.
“Teachers, ASHA workers, MGNREGA workers, women from the unorganised sector, and many more women would have come today, but for some reason at the last minute, many trains suddenly got cancelled,” she added.
Sudesh, a retired teacher from Haryana, said: “Modi ji, the common man is dying. There is no roti for him. You are only being the ‘star campaigner’ of the BJP, and not behaving like the prime minister of a country. You need to think about the whole country, not just the BJP. If you don’t, then you will not be prime minister again.”